The idea of being able to identify the most effective medication for a person and their health problem is an exciting prospect that seems just over the horizon. Dr. Altman discussed the database Stanford is building a database that contains information about how specific genes impact drug effectiveness while Dr. Leach spoke about the feasibility of industrializing the process of genome sequencing. With the number of genomes sequenced increasing every year, it is reasonable to assume that eventually the cost will decrease to a reasonable value, making this preventative medicine approach accessible for a majority of the population. Already the price has decrease from $2.3 billion to $100,000.
The skepticism in me was left with an eerie feeling after Dr. Leach asked his viewers if they would want to live to be 120 years old. I could not help but think of the environmental impact that would have on this planet’s resources. What is the cost of humans living to be 120 years old? Can we even begin to predict the true cost of this endeavor, financially, environmentally, emotionally, etc.? Is there any way to account for the “pendulum-effect” (the theory holding that trends in culture, politics, etc., tend to swing back and forth between opposite extremes) of huge cultural changes like this one? Some might call it a necessary risk, others might disagree…only time will tell!
There was an interesting contrast between the two videos on stem cell research. While the 60 minutes investigation on stem cell fraud focused on the use of stem cells to cure disease by way of essentially experimenting with humans, the TED talk with Susan Solomon about the promise of stem cells focused on their use as “testbeds,” that could accelerate research into curing diseases. The importance of evidence-based practice kept flashing through my mind as the defensive Dan Eckland told Scott Pelley of 60 minutes that he kept running up against conspiracies between drug companies and governments. Susan Solomon mentions these “interferences” that she also experienced in the field of stem cell research, which she dealt with by starting “private safe-haven laboratories” such as the New York Stem Cell Foundation Laboratory. This allowed her to advance her research on stem cells without the interferences from big organizations. Perhaps Dan Eckland should have considered these other pathways instead of starting his own “lab” in Ecuador.
Despite the promise of Susan Soloman’s research on stem cells, I was slightly hung up on her idea of collecting stem cells from all genetic subtypes. This seems like an infinite task to me especially when you add into this mix inclusion of all relevant cells – brain, heart, liver, etc. The combinations could truly be endless. However the robotic technology she mentions that creates thousands of stem cell lines might be promising in this quest for individualized medicine.
The psychology of weight loss is a topic I discovered a year or two ago and have been exploring ever since. The discussion in the TED talk by Alisa Anokhina sounded very similar to the points Evelyn Tribole, M.S., R.D. and Elyse Resch, M.S., R.D. make in their book Intuitive Eating. Like Alisa, these authors have been pioneering the idea of mindful eating since 1995. Alisha’s discussion lays the groundwork for rejection of the diet mentality and adoption of a healthier, more mindful lifestyle. By letting go of the thoughts of willpower and guilt that is too often associated with food in America, people are freed to slow down and actively enjoy food and experience the culture of food. I believe this is what Americans have lost over the years, in the quest for weight loss through extreme dieting. It’s time we get back to the basics of cooking and enjoying good quality food. Maybe this could be part of the answer as to why America is so overweight despite all of our technology and resources.
Dr. Dean Ornish and Dr. Sarah Hallberg both agree that people should be eating “real” food instead of the highly processed food Americans find all too convenient. However, that is where the similarities stop; if the two ever discussed the matter of health promotion and disease prevention, their disagreement would probably boil down to one macronutrient: fat.
Dr. Ornish discusses the 67% higher fat loss seen in people who limit fat intake instead of carbohydrate intake. Dr. Hallberg proposes limiting what she refers to as “GPS” – grains, potatoes, and sugars, and emphasizes that a person’s diet should be composed of mostly fat. Yes, these views are quite contradictory but this idea that fat should be the star macronutrient in an individual’s diet is also quite contradictory to a lot of evidence-based health guidelines. In the field of dietetics, we are taught to evaluate nutrition research carefully, assessing how the results of a study fit into a larger body of existing evidence. Results that oppose accepted dietary guidelines should raise speculation. That is not to say a novel idea or concept has no place in nutrition research, but further evaluation is absolutely necessary. Additionally, nutrition education and implementation for this type of diet will be especially difficult in low SES populations if Dr. Hallberg expects them to purchase the high quality food ingredients she mentions in her TED talk. Coconut oil for example starts at about $7 at Walmart.
I also wonder what Dr. Ornish would have to say about the genetic impact of a high fat diet, as he discusses in his interview that his proposed diet (focuses on whole and plant-based food and limits refined sugars, animal protein, dangerous fats) can turn on “good” genes and turn off “bad” genes. I am sure he might also mention something about clogged arteries and this idea of “mortgaging your health” for immediate outcomes, such as weight loss. This high fat diet definitely sounds like it comes at a cost, especially considering the lethargy and brain fog a person might experience if their body is utilizing fat as it’s primary fuel substrate. Not only would this make incorporation of physical activity difficult, it would probably decrease quality of life.
This is just a test post to make sure I can put this post into my new category “HNFE Seminar.”