Wednesday, March 21, 2012

Highjacking the Lead

Highjack the lead: the follower in a partner dance taking over the leading.

Over the past year, I've read more and more about biased research, corrupt nutritional organizations, and doctors whose advice is, well, not very helpful. In my experience, a doctor is useful for knowing about illnesses going around, and which medicines (if any) will cure them. If you have concerns about a protocol you're doing against medical advice, a doctor can monitor you. I've had good and bad experiences with various doctors. I don't think most of them are corrupt, I think many of them--outside of when they're treating trauma and infection--just don't know what they're doing.

A few years ago, I had an online conversation with a doctor (an MD, not a doctor of funk) with a subspecialty in diabetes who recommended her American patients eat at least 130g (or so) of carb per day because the American Diabetes Association said so. But of course, she did her research as well: she skimmed the titles of medical journal articles that came out. According to what I've read from various bloggers and commenters, this is common. (Dr. Michael Eades himself says that doctors aren't trained to think.) First, blindly following authority and using the less than the equivalent of Cliff's Notes aren't marks of an intellectual giant. Second, laymen with an internet connection can do more homework than that on their own. And since they have more skin in the game, they may take due diligence more seriously.

Why not bypass the doctor, then, in certain cases? As an example, my mother said she had trouble swallowing and had a lump in her throat. Since her father died of esophageal cancer, she was worried. Her doctor examined her and referred her to a gastroenterologist. I told her to cancel the appointment because the gastroenterologist wouldn't know what was wrong with her: magnesium deficiency. Granted, I had some inside information: I knew she'd run out of magnesium pills, and I've had the same throat condition myself. And sure enough, she got more magnesium pills yesterday, and had no throat problems today. But the odds of a gastroenterologist knowing about magnesium deficiency or suggesting an inexpensive bottle of the mineral are around zero.

This is how I think nutritional orthodoxy will end: People suffering with an unusual GI problem consult Google Scholar or have a conversation with someone, solve their problem, and end up cancelling a medical appointment. Or they troubleshoot their low-carb diet problems on a forum and ignore their doctor's advice about eating a low-fat diet. Others learn about the inefficacy of medical screenings and, with their other niggling problems cleared up, go years without seeing a doctor. Eventually, standard nutritional and medical advice becomes the butt of jokes. In a future downturn, some shrewd politician will spearhead the dismantling of the USDA et al in the name of cutting the deficit and stamping out fraud, waste and abuse. The dreadful medical advice now offered will go out with a whimper, not a bang.

1 comment:

tess said...

how i hope you're right!!! :-)