How to Reduce the Risk of Nutritional Diseases – Last in a Series

Published January 1, 2006

The United States is experiencing an epidemic of diseases related to poor nutrition. Rates of heart disease, stroke, type-2 diabetes, and obesity are all rising rapidly. No changes to public policy are likely to control or reduce spending on medical care so long as this epidemic continues.

In this column, launched in the April 2005 issue of Health Care News, public health scientists Alice and Fred Ottoboni have described simple dietary and lifestyle changes that can significantly reduce the risk of modern nutritional diseases and, at the same time, improve one’s health and sense of well-being. These suggestions are taken from the Ottoboni’s 2002 book, The Modern Nutritional Diseases and How to Prevent Them (Vincente Books Inc., [email protected], ISBN 0-915241-03-X) and appear here with the authors’ permission.

Quick links to each column in the nine-part series are available online at

The experience of writing this book has raised thoughts of the past and worries about the future of the human family.

The American diet over the past one hundred years seems to be a story of the triumph of junk science over real science. This is the situation today despite the fact that the biochemical pathways nutrients follow in the body are reasonably well known and competent studies relating diet to human health have scientifically validated the detrimental effects of high-glycemic diets and essential fatty acid imbalances.

The current relentless pressure to convert the entire population to a low-fat, high-carbohydrate dietary regime seems to be driven by a curious set of circumstances. It began with an idea aimed at inducing the public to buy and eat foods that are profitable for the agricultural and food industries, as opposed to foods man was designed to eat. With judicious use of public relations, advertising, pseudo science, and political prowess, this idea has grown into a sophisticated and powerful movement that is changing eating habits throughout the world.

Concurrently, the national priority aimed at the treatment of the modern nutritional diseases, rather than their prevention, has focused medical research on patentable new drugs rather than on preventable methods.

The consequences are sobering. Older adults suffer premature disabilities and shortened life spans; younger adults, and even children, are increasingly affected by early signs of atherosclerosis, obesity, and type-2 diabetes. Enormous prescription drug and medical care costs have nearly reached the point of overwhelming the national budget. And tragically, a growing body of evidence suggests the bizarre and increasingly common behavioral problems among young children and teenagers are related to the combined effects of high sugar intakes and the virtual absence of omega-3 essential fatty acids in the American diet.

Absent major national policy changes, the inviolable law of evolution will rule. It will continue on its relentless path despite what one reads in the newspaper or hears from official sources.

Man, by turning his back on the very nutrients that gave him his large and powerful brain, has set himself on a path not only toward poorer health and a shorter life but also toward the consequences of a smaller brain size. Paleopathology shows the brain size of modern man is already about 10 percent smaller than that of prehistoric man and postulates this shrinkage is due to insufficient omega-3 fatty acids in the human diet that began with the advent of farming about 10,000 years ago.

Is it possible, after surviving all of the wars and misery of recorded human history, that the future of man may ultimately be determined by something as simple as a series of low-cost, unpatentable, readily available nutrients derived from an 18 carbon polyunsaturated fatty acid with its first double bond in the omega-3 position?