The Cure for Chronic Disease

Diana and Leo repping out some squats last week.

Diana and Leo repping out some squats last week.

I watched a talk given by Greg Glassman yesterday. Glassman is the founder of CrossFit and a lightening rod for controversy. There is an arrogance about him that does not always sit well with me. He does not mince words and routinely states his opinions as fact. He's also a pretty smart guy and has been onto something with nutrition and high intensity exercise long before it became fashionable. He is also not intimidated by the food and beverage industry, the Food and Drug Administration, Big Pharma, or insurance companies. All of which are entities that make my blood boil. I have not drank quite enough of the kool-aid to believe all that he has to say but there are some thought-provoking concepts. I'll outline what I found to be the interesting concepts as the whole talk is 45 minutes and laced with profanity and controversy. You all have better things to do with your time than watching CrossFit videos but here is if you are curious: Chronic Disease: We Have the Answer. I also welcome the perspective of the many physicians and health care providers we have in our community as you actually live in this world every day. While I do not believe Glassman when he states that "we (CrossFit) have the answer to chronic disease", some of his points do resonate with me and it reminds me of the power we all have at our disposal. Here is the synopsis:

  • Measurements of health such as blood pressure, bone density, fasting blood sugar, A1C, obesity, body fat percentage, cholesterol, triglycerides, etc. are all symptoms of chronic disease. Modern medicine has all manner of medical interventions and pharmaceuticals to treat these symptoms, but no effective treatment to cure them.
  • The measurements of health listed above will ALL improve by following the CrossFit prescription for nutrition and exercise. Nutrition and exercise are the only variables that have a positive impact on chronic disease prevention and treatment and are a hedge against getting sick. 
  • 70% of people in the United States that died last year died of chronic disease. (Glassman argues that 85% of cancers should be lumped into this category as metabolic diseases as well. I'm not quite ready to go there.) The remaining 30% of deaths are a combination of accidents, toxicity, genetic disorders, and microbial infections. Fitness improves your chances of surviving all these as well. 
  • Two-thirds of your health care premium goes to insurance companies for overhead and profit. Of the remaining third, 86% goes to treat chronic disease which is largely symptom management rather than curative. Insurance and pharmaceutical companies have no incentive to look at options for prevention or non-medical treatment. 

Like I said before, much of this information is subject to interpretation and is most certainly controversial. The message though is that we have far more power at our fingertips to ward off chronic disease than most of us take advantage of. We also have knowledge that can help our friends and family members potentially avoid chronic disease. Finally, imagine how differently our healthcare system might look if we could bring more and more Americans onto the island of nutrition and exercise rather than chronic disease. 

Okay, I'm off my soapbox now and I promise to take a small hiatus from the nutrition topic. Feel free to post contrasting opinions or counterpoints to comments.