Eskimos, obesity, diabetes and unsustainability — NPR

Earlier this week, I saw a 3-25-2011 article on the NPR website that I hadn’t seen before. It was based on an interview with Canadian physician and author, Kevin Patterson — How western diets are making the world sick. At the link below my signature, you can read the entire article and also listen to the 13-minute NPR interview.

Canadian physician and author, Kevin Patterson

In addition to treating patients in British Columbia, he also has extensive experience around the globe in places like the Arctic, Afghanistan, and Saipan in the Pacific. Throughout the article, his primary emphasis is on the highly processed western foods and how they have driven obesity and type 2 diabetes.

“Type 2 diabetes historically didn’t exist, only 70 or 80 years ago,” says Patterson. “And what’s driven it, of course, is this rise in obesity, especially the accumulation of abdominal fat. That fat induces changes in our receptors that cells have for insulin. Basically, it makes them numb to the effect of insulin.”

In the Arctic region, he talks about how the native diet of caribou and whale meat (killed and processed by hand) has been replaced by the likes of Kentucky Fried Chicken; a phenomenon that has produced widespread obesity and type 2 diabetes. A similar phenomenon has taken place in Pacific island of Saipan.

“I worked in Saipan, which is in the Marianas Island in the Pacific, and there, the dialysis population was increasing at about 18 percent a year, all as a consequence of diabetes and acculturation — exactly the same process as what’s going on with the Inuit.

“When you look at the curves, it’s clear how unsustainable it is. In 20 or 30 years, everybody on that island will either be a dialysis patient or a dialysis nurse unless something fundamental is done about the rise in diabetes. That’s no less true in Canada and in Samoa and Hawaii, and even in Omaha and Toronto. We all have exactly the same problem when we plot out those curves.”

Like myself and others, Dr. Patterson has concluded that without a doubt, the continued spread of the toxic western diet is simply unsustainable. Eventually, we will be forced to make some changes as we simply cannot become a world full of “dialysis patients and nurses.” But, unlike Dr. T. Colin Campbell and the five enlightened MD’s featured on this blog and in our book, Dr. Patterson never mentions the natural diet for our species as being whole plants. He explained the “traditional diet” in the Arctic as being almost totally animal based, but that the human body can handle almost any food if we’re active enough.

Apparently this traditional Inuit lifestyle has been replaced by a sedentary lifestyle fueled by the likes of Kentucky Fried Chicken.

Here’s the way I see it. The natural diet for our species is whole plants in nature’s package — just like the natural diet for animals in the wild whose DNA is closest to ours. But, unlike humans, those animals lacked the cognitive niche and didn’t have the ability to migrate away from their natural diet. To me, the human Inuits in the Arctic simply could not live there if they depended on whole plants — because there are none.

As for unsustainability, we know that the numbers just don’t work for seven billion people on this planet to subsist primarily on meat and animal products. Those kinds of foods require 20 times more energy, land and water PER CALORIE than whole, plant-based foods. I know this reasoning doesn’t help the Inuit in the Arctic, where the cheapest and tastiest calories available are those highly processed foods (with lots of oil, salt and corn fructose) that have been flown there from somewhere else.

Bottom Line. As I have said many times, my prediction is that we’re all going to eventually be forced back to the natural diet for our species — and I think that it will all be driven by the soaring cost of petroleum in the future. As the finite fossil fuels are replaced by renewable sources of energy; the cost of meat, dairy and highly-processed (and transported) foods will simply not be economically feasible to feed the vast majority of the world’s population. Ultimately, this is a very good thing for the human race.

I agree with Dr. Patterson that it would be better if we could take a more “considered” approach back to a healthy diet-style; although my conviction is that most humans will not make that change until they are forced. But that doesn’t mean that you have to wait. We are blessed with being able to select almost any plant food we want — throughout the western world — 365 days a year.

J. Morris Hicks, trying my best to help you and your family take charge of your health NOW -- not waiting until we are forced.

If enough thoughtful humans began to select more whole plants, perhaps we can get ahead of the curve of “forced” change. We can take charge of our own health now, ensure the future health of our children and their children — simply by changing what we are eating. Our 4-Leaf Program was designed to help make this process as simple and as easy as it can possibly be.

As for the folks in the Arctic, the rising cost of energy may eventually force them to move closer to where the food is produced — and ultimately, that will be much better for them and their families. (See Dr. Patterson’s NPR interview below)

If you like what you see here, you may wish to join our periodic mailing list. Also, for help in your own quest to take charge of your health, you might find some useful information at our 4-Leaf page. From the seaside village of Stonington, Connecticut – Be well and have a great day.

If you’d like to order our book on Amazon,  visit our BookStore now.

—J. Morris Hicks…blogging daily at

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How Western Diets Are Making The World Sick

About J. Morris Hicks

A former strategic management consultant and senior corporate executive with Ralph Lauren in New York, J. Morris Hicks has always focused on the "big picture" when analyzing any issue. In 2002, after becoming curious about our "optimal diet," he began a study of what we eat from a global perspective ---- discovering many startling issues and opportunities along the way. In addition to an MBA and a BS in Industrial Engineering, he holds a certificate in plant-based nutrition from the T. Colin Campbell Center for Nutrition Studies, where he has also been a member of the board of directors since 2012. Having concluded that our food choices hold the key to the sustainability of our civilization, he has made this his #1 priority---exploring all avenues for influencing humans everywhere to move back to the natural plant-based diet for our species.
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