There Are Few Shortcuts to Health

People aged 70-90 who follow a Mediterranean diet, are physically active, have moderate alcohol use, and are nonsmokers have less than half the heart attack, cancer and overall death rate of people who eat an average Western diet and have more average habits. This was the remarkable conclusion of the 2004 HALE study, involving people from eleven countries.

And the 2014 PREDIMED study demonstrated a 35-50% reduction in cardiovascular events by simply consuming extra virgin olive oil.

But there’s little money to be made for the pharmaceutical and health care establishment by promoting healthy eating habits.

In this week’s New England Journal of Medicine, there are two articles with opposite results from the use of different omega-3 fatty acids.

The first one, sponsored by the pharmaceutical industry, showed a 25% risk reduction from a supplement with Eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA), naturally found in fatty fish like salmon.

“Among patients with elevated triglyceride levels despite the use of statins, the risk of ischemic events, including cardiovascular death, was significantly [25%] lower among those who received 2 g of icosapent ethyl twice daily than among those who received placebo. (Funded by Amarin Pharma; REDUCE-IT ClinicalTrials.gov number, NCT01492361.)”

I remember reading about this substance way back in Barry Sears book, The Zone.

The second article showed no benefit from generic omega-3 fatty acids:

Supplementation with n−3 fatty acids did not result in a lower incidence of major cardiovascular events or cancer than placebo. (Funded by the National Institutes of Health and others; VITAL ClinicalTrials.gov number, NCT01169259.)

Conclusion: Good food and good clean living reduces risk by 50+%, branded supplements by 25% and generic supplements possibly not at all.

Is anybody surprised?

4 Responses to “There Are Few Shortcuts to Health”


  1. 1 meyati January 5, 2019 at 1:15 am

    And they are raising the prices on everything, including Armour Thyroid.

  2. 2 famdocnc February 1, 2019 at 9:34 am

    Often I comment to my patients that one of my goals for them is to keep them out of the office and that if they take care of the big 3, sleep nutrition and physical activity, they increase the odds of that. Bad business plan I guess.

  3. 3 Hilary February 17, 2019 at 3:11 pm

    Thank you for your blog. How do you encourage your patients to eat better and exercise? Does it work?

    • 4 acountrydoctorwrites February 17, 2019 at 4:02 pm

      It only works in a minority of cases, sometimes by my telling about my flex fuel patient, sometimes people see that I have lost weight and work harder than ever at 65, feeling great…but even a few changed lives are encouraging


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Osler said “Listen to your patient, he is telling you the diagnosis”. Duvefelt says “Listen to your patient, he is telling you what kind of doctor he needs you to be”.

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