THE BLOG

The Health Care Bill and the State of Our Union: Are We Swallowing the Wrong Medicine?

03/27/2010 05:12 am ET | Updated May 25, 2011

When Senator John McCain ran for President in 2008, his medical records described him as a healthy 70 year old who takes 8 prescription medications. During that same summer, the tragic sudden death at age 58 of Meet the Press host Tim Russert was announced. Tim Russert's Insulin Resistant Diabetes, high cholesterol, high blood pressure and coronary artery diseases were being "medically managed," by some of the nation's
finest doctors. His death at 58 should have numerous adjectives attached, but surprising is not one of them.

Despite aggressive drug regimens to treat high cholesterol, diabetes, hypertension, and admonitions by physicians and government to adopt a healthy, low-fat lifestyle, our national health is spiraling out of control, and with it, our health care system itself. We spend the most per capita on health care of any nation in the world, have the best health care system in the world, yet have the worst health of any industrialized nation, trailing even some third world countries as well. Our congressmen try to outdo each other on who is going to make universal health care available so that 70-year-olds can have their "normal" 8 prescription drugs, while at the same time not realizing that universal health care is unnecessary if there is universal health. Since when is it considered normal for a 70-year-old presidential candidate to require 8 prescription medications? Or a beloved 58-year-old reporter to drop dead while his "diseases" are being medically managed?

I say this as former Chairman of Cardiothoracic Surgery at Loma Linda University who seven years ago could have been Tim Russert's twin brother. After witnessing a young patient with severe heart disease reverse his coronary artery blockages in 6 months with a diet and supplements, I resigned my position, lost 70 pounds, and now reverse my patient's diseases with food, which usually eliminates their prescription medications. Because of this about face, I am affectionately known now as "No More Mr. Knife Guy." I have very few patients who prefer prescription drugs and disease management to eating real food and feeling well. Someone should have given Tim Russert that choice.

In the last seven years of offering that choice, I've come to realize that the way out of our current health care mess is not universal coverage, not disease management, not "health plans." It is food that prevents or causes disease. What does that mean? Simply: "It's the diet, stupid!"

We are designed to eat a diet high in green leaves and to eat animals (if you wish) that were also eating green leaves. We are not only what we eat, but we are what the things we are eating, eats. And this trickles down even to our vegetables and fruits. 60 years ago, our produce was grown in 6 feet of loam soil; our cows, chickens, fish ate grass, bugs and seaweed. Now, our produce is grown in insecticide-infused sand, fertilized by petrochemicals. Our cattle, chickens, and fish are all fed grain products, which they were never designed to eat. They are kept in small cubicles for most of their lives; their sun exposure is fleeting. They are stuffed with fat beyond any normal animal of their type in the wild. Sound familiar? It should; it also describes most of us and Tim Russert: we have become what we eat! Our "heart-healthy" chicken breasts, ground turkey, and salmon have all turned into deadly inflammation-packed bombs, aimed directly at our blood vessels and joints!

We are beginning to come to our collective senses about what we as a species have inflicted on our planet; the eco-green movement is real and growing. But it is only one half of the solution. Until we again put premium, unadulterated, green-based fuel into our bodies, the health care crisis will only continue to worsen. Until we learn that we are designed to thrive on less food, not more, like the giant food companies urge us to consume, we will continue to wonder why all the fat kids are asthmatic diabetics at age 9 or 10, meanwhile stuffing them with healthy low fat pretzels, chicken nuggets, and fruit juices.

Heresy? I am not a robe-clad guru, but an academic heart surgeon who merely has looked again, and doesn't like what he sees. Nearly 60 years ago, as he left office, then President Dwight Eisenhower told us to beware the Military-Industrial Complex. Now, may I suggest that we as a nation must beware the Agribusiness-Pharmaceutical Complex as the great threat to our collective health? If Tim Russert had investigated that Complex with the vigor he brought to other problems, I'm convinced he would still be with us.

At the risk of sounding naïve, instead of credits to buy health insurance, why not credits to buy produce (produce stamps)? Eliminate sales tax on fresh or frozen produce; increase the tax on products with sugar or flour as ingredients. Eliminate corn, wheat, and sugar subsides and support. Preposterous? During the last Great War, illness and disease plummeted with sugar and flour rationing and the use of home Victory Gardens. Fully 40% of all food eaten in this country during the war years came from those gardens. Why not give a tax credit to every household that plows up their front yard and plants vegetables instead of grass? If 40% of our food was again grown at home, the gas crisis would vanish overnight. Give plots in vacant inner city or suburban neighborhoods to anyone who will till and work the soil. Allow them to sell their surplus vegetables tax-free. Give "Work-fare" employment to grow vegetables locally. When we have a policy of "Plowshares, not Prescriptions", I assure you, there will be more than enough health care to go around, because far fewer people will have disease. We could even have a Presidential Candidate demonstrate how 70 year olds don't require 8 prescription drugs to be considered normal and healthy.

Enough of this current health care bill! President Obama; at the State of the Union address, introduce the "Real Food and Real Health for Everyone" platform. First Lady Michelle, when the ground thaws, turn over the first spade of dirt, not only on the White House South Lawn for the National Health Victory Garden, but in every city you visit. We owe Tim Russert, and all Americans, nothing less. President and Mrs. Obama, lettuce begin with you.