When I first read, “Anyone can be a doctor…,” my reaction was, this is over the top. To be clear, it was just a comment on Authority Nutrition, a website founded by Kris Gunnars and sold to Healthline in 2017. Still, I thought, it went too far. Then, as I read on “…so long as you stay away from drugs and supplements and stick to using food as your medicine,” I came to see the point. And the commenter had got my attention with a trenchant and pithy lede. It was, after all, Hippocrates, father of Western medicine, who said, “Let food be thy medicine and medicine be thy food.” So, it was just echoing Hippocrates, who also said, “Primum non nocerum,” “First do no harm.”
Okay, I’ll admit that medicine has come a long way since 370 BC, but so has “food,” unfortunately, in ways that are mostly detrimental to our health. The prescription to use food as our medicine was more prescient than most will acknowledge today. Yet many clinicians and health care providers, and bloggers like me, are absolutely convinced that the dietary advice that our government has been giving us since the days of Ancel Keys’s 1953 “Six Country Analysis” and George McGovern’s 1977 “Dietary Goals for the United States,” has been directly responsible for the metabolic maladies which underlie the Diseases of Civilization. The “Dietary Guidelines for Americans,” produced every 5 years since 1980, echo this horribly-gone-wrong government intervention and still reign supreme today.
Crop production, food manufacturing and marketing have been driven by the USDA’s prescription that our diet be composed of 60% carbohydrates, 30% fat, and only 10% protein. Further, the guidelines still ordain that animal products, which are higher in saturated fats and cholesterol, be reduced, and artificially manufactured vegetable fats, such as soybean oil, corn oil, canola oil, safflower oil, etc., be increased. These “prescriptions” are totally wrong and, in and of themselves, the cause of our health and obesity crisis.
So, under these circumstances, what’s a person to do? The answer, of course, is to be your own doctor – to take charge of your own health…with respect to your “dietetic prescription.” I discovered – completely by accident – that changing what I ate “cured” my metabolic disorders. My motivation was simply to lose weight, so when my doctor suggested I try Atkins Induction (a very low carb diet), I tried it. It changed everything. Thank goodness he had read Gary Taubes’s “What If It’s All Been a Good Fat Lie,” a 2002 New York Times Sunday Magazine cover story.
I wasn’t hungry, my blood pressure dropped from 130/90 to 110/70 on the same meds, my HDL more than doubled, and my triglycerides went down by more than 2/3rds. My total cholesterol stayed about the same, as did my LDL, but my LDL particle size/pattern changed from “small-dense” to “large-buoyant,” meaning they were less likely to get stuck in ruts in my arteries caused by systemic inflammation. My hs-CRP, a lab test which measures inflammation, went from 6.4 in early 2003 to a low of 0.1 in late 2012. Oh, and I lost 170 pounds along the way.
Many people today subscribe to a proverb associated with the prophet Luke, himself a physician: Cura te ipsum ("Take care of your own self!" or "Cure yourself, before dealing with patients.” My doctor, an internist/cardiologist, after reading Taubes, had tried Atkins Induction himself. So, I had my doc to guide me and I trusted him implicitly.
But my doctor at first had followed the 2nd version of the English translation of the Hippocratic Oath before he followed the 1st version: The operable provision of the 2nd (modern) version is: “I will prescribe regimens for the good of my patients according to my ability and my judgment and never do harm to anyone.” The same provision in the 1st translation is: “I will apply dietetic measures for the benefit of the sick according to my ability and judgment; I will keep them from harm and injustice.” (Emphasis mine in both quotes) My doctor, being trained to treat disease with drugs, had “prescribed regimens” before he “applied dietetic measures.”
So, my doctor, in his unending search for a way for me to lose weight and keep it off, suggested, after reading Taubes, that I apply dietetic measures, AGAINST the medical establishment’s recommendations. He did it “for the good of his patient,” and he “kept me from harm.” He must have recognized a risk, but by monitoring my health closely, we learned that the clinical outcomes clearly justified going against big government. Good on him, I say!