Sunday, February 26, 2012

Doctors gone wild!

I just returned today from the American College of Preventive Medicine's (ACPM) annual conference in Orlando.

Let me preface my comments by saying I love the ACPM and what it stands for: physicians dedicated to prevention. It is an organization made up of physicians who have primarily dedicated themselves to preventing diseases as opposed to just treating them like most of the rest of the American medical establishment.  I also appreciate that in regards to preventing disease, evidence-based medical practice is growing but still fairly limited and therefore there can be a wide divergence of opinions in the place of available facts.

That said, I was truly shocked by the plethora of opinions I heard expressed by both conference speakers, other attendees, and even the vendors in the exhibit hall. There was Dr. Neil Barnard pushing his vegan only agenda. Dr. Mark Hyman pushing functional medicine. Dr. Mark Houston was pushing supplements, albeit indirectly.

I found Dr. Robert Kushner, who heads up Northwestern's Comprehensive  Center on Obesity to be the most credible presenter I heard. He promised no miracle cures and magic pills. He spoke sensibly and didn't recommend supplements except when there are identified deficiencies. He wasn't pushing an agenda or a book.

It's a shame that some of these other doctors may genuinely be interested in improving the health of others, but their one size fits all approaches makes everything they say suspect.

My take-away from the conference is as follows. One size does not fit all. Food really is all important when its at the root of the problem. The challenge is identifying when that is the case. There is no reason to take supplements unless there is an identified reason to do so. Such a reason would be Vitamin D3 for someone with little to no sun exposure or B12 for an avowed vegan. Identified deficiencies are another good reason, but never mega-doses.

I believe that when conventional medicine cannot find a solution to a problem, then more out of the box thinking may be indicated. Given that most of the body's serotonin is made in the gut, most of the body's interactive surface area is in the gut, most of the body's cells and genes are in the gut, it makes sense to think about how the gut may be a contributor to causing or curing diseases. Metabolic pathways matter and most of then initiate in the gut. 

So I give a thumbs up to functional medicine which focuses on metabolic pathways and their contributions to diseases and cures, a sideways thumb to Dr. Mark Hyman who argues that food is both sustenance and medicine, but then indulges in many supplements anyway, a wobbly sideways thumb to Dr. Neil Barnard who advocates against fish and for limited nut consumption as part of his only Vegan mission, another wobbly sideways thumb for Dr. Mark Houston who lists far too many supplements on his website as treatments, and a big thumbs up for Dr. Robert Kushner who seemed to be mostly interested in giving good old fashioned practical medical advice. Don't get me wrong, I like to see doctors challenge the status quo. I just like there to be some science behind what they are saying instead of anecdotal evidence. Presenting a few case studies proves very little especially when you claim to have cured Alzheimer's Disease in some patients as Dr. Hyman claimed to me.

Of course these impressions were formed after a hour or so with each of these gentlemen (2 hours with Dr. Mark Hyman) so there is some jumping to conclusions on my part, but I don't think I am far off the mark.

One last note. I spent considerable time speaking with a physician who is a distributor for NuSkin who tried to peddle the Pharmanex scanner to me to lease from him for my office patients.  I wasn't buying because the arguments simply didn't stack up for me. While carotenoids seem to have some protective elements, they are not the end to end all in determining antioxidant activity, and testing for them alone ensures nothing but a reasonable measurement level of carotenoids, 

It's a shame that this is the third physician in a week who tried to push this device and the related Lifepak Nano on me as a viable product for patients. The bigger shame is that they have had to resort to making a living as multi-level marketers because they apparently aren't satisfied with what they can earn as physicians alone. I will not judge them, but I will tell you that it made me very sad that it has come to this type of snake-oil peddling shannanigans on the part of licensed physicians.  To me, they are physicians gone wild.

By the way, I scored a 67 on the Pharmanex scanner test, which is considered a solid best A range score. Apparently, I am getting my fill of carotenoids by simply eating right and without any pills or supplements. Go figure.


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