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The White Elephant in the Room

Michael Pollan does a terrific job connecting all the dots in this op-ed article which appeared in the NYT last Friday.

I think we all know what the white elephant in the room is! It's the food!!

I think we all know what the white elephant in the room is! It's the food!!

OP-ED CONTRIBUTOR

Big Food vs. Big Insurance

Published: September 9, 2009

Times Topics: Michael Pollan

TO listen to President Obama’s speech on Wednesday night, or to just about anyone else in the health care debate, you would think that the biggest problem with health care in America is the system itself — perverse incentives, inefficiencies, unnecessary tests and procedures, lack of competition, and greed.

No one disputes that the $2.3 trillion we devote to the health care industry is often spent unwisely, but the fact that the United States spends twice as much per person as most European countries on health care can be substantially explained, as a study released last month says, by our being fatter. Even the most efficient health care system that the administration could hope to devise would still confront a rising tide of chronic disease linked to diet.

That’s why our success in bringing health care costs under control ultimately depends on whether Washington can summon the political will to take on and reform a second, even more powerful industry: the food industry.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, three-quarters of health care spending now goes to treat “preventable chronic diseases.” Not all of these diseases are linked to diet — there’s smoking, for instance — but many, if not most, of them are.

We’re spending $147 billion to treat obesity, $116 billion to treat diabetes, and hundreds of billions more to treat cardiovascular disease and the many types of cancer that have been linked to the so-called Western diet. One recent study estimated that 30 percent of the increase in health care spending over the past 20 years could be attributed to the soaring rate of obesity, a condition that now accounts for nearly a tenth of all spending on health care.

CLick here for the full article: http://tinyurl.com/l4bzs5

About the author

As a firefighter for the Austin Fire Department, he helped people and saved lives. As a friend to other firefighters, he transformed the way Austin ’s Engine 2 firehouse ate in order to save a firefighting brother’s health. Now, as the author of The Engine 2 Diet, Rip is teaching people the irrefutable connection between what they put in their mouths and their ability to reach their ideal weight and their ideal health.

4 Responses to “The White Elephant in the Room”

  1. Carole Cox says:

    I’ve been saying this for years. Unfortuneately, I am not perfect either but the bottome line is, we are an unhealthy culture. Health care is not a political problem and will not be solved by policy reforms unless they engage the way we eat and live rather than the way be pay for our sins.

    Ten years working in critical care medicine and twenty plus around fire/EMS have revealed nothing but the problems we encounter when we make unhealthym, risky lifestyle choices.

    E2 is one of the best ways to promote a lifestyle change. I have fallen off this wagon for a meal hear and there but all I have to do isopen my eyes and look around to see that such behavior can lead to conditions I do not want to face.

    Rather than enabling unheakthy lifestyle, we need to consider the taxing of sugary, fatty foods -much like tobacco tax- and turning these revenues into the support of health and recreation facilities.

    Be part of the solution-not part of the problem.

  2. Carole Cox says:

    I used to run something called a cell saver during traumas and liver transplants -big heavy bleeding cases. It processed the blood from the surgical field so that we could give it back to the patient -reducing the need for donated blood. There were some patients who produced a waste that had globs of fat. Really. That indicated in a rather crude way that there might be a problem in what some eat.

  3. Rob says:

    Be bold and Stand Firm Rip! You have a great opportunity to change people’s live from the voice you now have after writing your book. I just returned from visiting family and they are all suffering from a lifetime of poor eating choices. The surgeons have have cutting out cancer from my aunt from the last week. First that removed a lump from one breast, next they remove all the lymph nodes on one side (16), after that they removed a lemon sized mass from the pancreas and spleen. During one of the stomach surguries they managed to cut a hole in her stomach. So back to the operating room.

    I am no doctor and will never know for sure what caused all this cancer, but I do know she has been on the Atkins diet for the last few months. Prior to the Atkins diet, she drank diet soft drinks by the truckload for years and has enjoyed a very unhealthy diet and been overweight for as long as I can remember.

    Stand up and tell your family what they are doing can kill them. This not something you have to be nice about.

  4. Denise in WI says:

    Michael Pollan just spent this weekend here in Madison, WI. The University here chose his latest book “In Defense of Food” for its first selection in the “Go Big Read” program. So 4,000 college students here were required to read it over the last couple of weeks. Pollan gave three separate lectures in town (one that happily coincided with our annual Food for Thought Festival that focuses on local, whole foods) that were standing-room-only; I’m so glad to say! Surprisingly (or maybe not) there was a LOT of opposition from the farming community, some of whom felt they were under attack by him. I just hope some of the thousands of people who heard him speak (and the 4,000 students who are reading his book) come away with some true “food for thought”.

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