What is wealth without health?

Why today’s most common diseases are not diagnosed & treated correctly.

Article ⸻

What is wealth without health?

Why today’s most common diseases are not diagnosed & treated correctly.

We work hard in order to enjoy our wealth in retirement but, when questioning people about health, most believe that developing one or more chronic diseases as we age is inevitable. Why is this the case? Scientists studying traditional societies found them to be healthy, even when advanced in age. Yet, this condition changes within a generation when they become exposed to a Western lifestyle. Today, seven out of the ten leading causes of death globally, are due to non-communicable chronic diseases.

Why can’t we with our sophisticated medical equipment, drugs and operating procedures stem the tide? Was there anything that changed over the last 100 years that impacted our collective lifestyle? The answer is YES.

In 1983, the UK Government introduced dietary guidelines, also known as the Eatwell Guide1, which advised the public what they should eat. This was based on the ‘My Plate’ Dietary Guidelines for Americans2, which were first published in the US in 1980. Analysis of the content of these diets shows that it is based on refined grain-based foods (high carbohydrate content), man-made vegetable and seed oils (known to be highly inflammatory) and many products containing added sugars and sweeteners (high carbohydrate content).

Since then, the rates of metabolic diseases such as dementia, heart disease, diabetes, cancer and obesity have risen dramatically. For some, the rates have almost tripled since the early 1970s. The figure below shows the prevalence trends in the US for obesity, high blood pressure (hypertension) and diabetes since 1900. For all three conditions there was a noticeable increase after the second World War, but the most dramatic increase occurred since 1980 when the dietary guidelines were introduced.3

us prevalence trends -us-prevalence-trends | Piercefield Oliver

A bias against animal-based foods

After analysing the contents of the Eatwell Guide, UK diet and health researcher Dr Zoe Harcombe, calls it staggeringly unbalanced and nutritionally deficient4. The run-up to the introduction of the diet started after the Second World War and was based upon unproven and incorrect assumptions that animal fat and cholesterol are the causes of heart disease. The history and magnitude of the forces that directed this deception are eloquently summarised by Professor Tim Noakes in his blog Ancel Keys’ Cholesterol Con.5

This idea that animal-based fat and protein are bad, was further popularised in the 1970s by the ‘plant-based diet is best for health’ enthusiasts. In 2014, the science journalist and New York Times best-selling author Nina Teicholz, published her book The Big Fat Surprise, exposing how vested interests of the Food and Drinks Industry and the US Dietary Guidelines Advisory Committee ignore available scientific evidence in their crusade against fat and meat.6

These scientifically unproven concepts still prevail today, now aided by the vociferous and intimidating voices of the plant-based-climate-angle dietary movement, which effectively advocate even higher consumption levels of carbohydrate-rich processed food and manmade oils listed in the guidelines.7

However, it is scientifically proven that a high carbohydrate diet (not protein and fat) is driving the metabolic condition called insulin resistance, the precursor of the diseases mentioned above. Insulin resistance is almost never diagnosed, in spite of it being the most common health disorder in the world! ‘You might have it too,’ explains Dr Ben Bikman in his book Why We Get Sick8, a condition that could affect almost 90 per cent of adults. And yet, most people are not familiar with the term ‘insulin resistance’ and unfortunately, most GPs don’t know how to diagnose the condition.

How do you know if you have it?

To get a sense of your risk level, answer these questions:

  • Do you carry more belly fat than you’d like?
  • Is your waist:height ratio measured in centimetres greater than 0.5?
  • Do you suffer from high blood pressure?
  • Do you have type 2 diabetes?
  • Do you suffer from infertility (polycystic ovary syndrome for women or erectile dysfunction for men)?
  • Do you have high levels of blood triglycerides?

Although the list is not comprehensive, if you replied ‘yes’ to one or more questions, you likely have insulin resistance.

How do we get insulin resistance?

Many people think that insulin is a medication used for people with diabetes, but is in fact a hormone that is produced in our bodies to regulate our blood glucose levels. When we eat food that increases blood glucose levels, our pancreas releases insulin which transports glucose into the cells of our organs (brain, muscles, heart, kidneys etc), where it is used to produce energy. Clearly, this function of insulin is very important, because without sufficient energy to power our cells, our body cannot function normally and we become sick. This condition is called insulin resistance.

Since blood glucose levels drive insulin levels, it is logical that the higher our blood glucose levels are, the higher our insulin levels will be. Of all the food that we eat, it is carbohydrates (aka starch such as bread, pasta, rice, cereals, biscuits, cake, fruit and sugar) that are responsible for the highest glucose levels and therefore insulin levels. We all know that once you start eating food such as cake or biscuits, it is very difficult to stop. The pendulum swings between high and low blood sugar levels and is created by the interplay between glucose, the breakdown product of all carbohydrates in the food that we eat, and insulin, which is trying to remove it from our bloodstream – it is a real roller-coaster ride!

carbohydrate metabolism -carbohydrate-metabolism | Piercefield Oliver

Over time, this pattern steadily leads to a person becoming more and more insulin-resistant. This can develop over years, even decades and during that time our cells and organs become more and more resistant to the action of insulin. Ultimately disease symptoms will manifest, for example; insulin resistance in our muscles is called ‘type 2 diabetes’, in our liver it is called ‘fatty liver disease’, in our brains it is called ‘Alzheimer’s dementia’ and in the ovaries of women, ‘polycystic ovary syndrome’.

Insulin resistance is a serious disease and, if left untreated, people will ultimately die from heart disease or other cardiovascular complications, complications of type 2 diabetes, breast or prostate cancer, while others will develop Alzheimer’s dementia or any number of other associated chronic diseases.10

How can we treat it?

The dramatic increase in the chronic lifestyle diseases over the past decades are eroding and bankrupting our global healthcare systems. Patients with high blood pressure, diabetes etc are offered treatment with a range of drugs to suppress their symptoms, whilst the underlying condition of insulin resistance is progressing relentlessly. The tragedy is that the disease process of insulin resistance cannot be treated with drugs. In his book Metabolical, paediatric endocrinologist Dr Robert Lustig summarises the current state of affairs: ‘Modern Medicine works downstream of the problem by treating the symptoms, rather than working upstream to treat the cause.’11

However, all is not gloom and despair. There is definitely hope for people who wish to improve their metabolic health, lead an active healthy life, enjoy their families and friends and all the opportunities that their wealth affords them, until the end.

Eat for a healthy life

The only way to address this disease is to change our diet, and specifically to reduce the amount of carbohydrates that we consume. Even if enlightened GPs are aware of the evidence and the benefits of a low-carbohydrate, high natural fat diet, they feel hamstrung to challenge the official guidelines, for the fear of falling foul of the General Medical Council. It is therefore up to each and everyone of us to take care of our own health and it is wise for each and every one to remember the old idiom – You are the captain of your ship.

Simple dietary steps

  • avoid all processed foods: pre-packed, pre-boxed and fast food
  • eliminate all refined carbohydrates (anything made from white or whole meal flour and rice)
  • exclude all forms of sugar, fizzy drinks and fruit juices
  • stick to leafy green vegetables and berries
  • eat ample amounts of natural fats and protein (meat, butter, fish, eggs, cheese, coconut oil, nuts, avocado)

These steps remind me of the advice that Rebecca Oppenheimer gave in her 1917 book Diabetic Cookery, Recipes and Menus: eat butter, cream cheeses, meat, poultry, fish and eggs and to completely avoid sugar, bread, flour, grains, sweet fruits and dried fruits.12 Our great-great-grandmothers knew best!

Our key message is: Know your metabolic status. Follow the links if you wish your own status to be assessed, or to implement a nutrition programme that can reverse insulin resistance and/or its complications. Visit us at: www.wellnesseq.net

SNY01920 uai -SNY01920 | Piercefield Oliver

Dr Estrelita Van Rensburg

Wellness EQ


1. NHS. 2019. The Eatwell Guide. https://www.nhs.uk/live-well/eat-well/the-eatwell-guide/
2. US Department of Health and Human Services and Department of Agriculture. Nutrition and Your Health: Dietary Guidelines for Americans. Washington, DC: US Government Printing Office; 1980. https://health.gov/sites/default/files/2019-10/1980thin.pdf
3. Van Rensburg E and Warrack I: Eat Well or Die Slowly: Your Guide to Metabolic Health, UK: Wellness EQ Publishers, 2020. https://bit.ly/EatWellorDieSlowly
4. Harcombe, Z: Newsletter: The Eatwell Guide is nutritionally deficient, 2018. https://www.zoeharcombe.com/2018/07/the-eatwell-guide-is-nutritionally-deficient/
5. Noakes T. 2020. CrossFit: Ancel Keys’ Cholesterol Con, Part 1 & Part 2. https://www.crossfit.com/health/ancel-keys-cholesterol-con-part-1
6. Teicholz N. The Big Fat Surprise. New York, NY: Simon and Schuster; 2014. https://amzn.to/3PMcbxE
7. Buxton, J. The Great Plant-Based Con. London: Piatkus, Little Brown Book Group; 2022. https://amzn.to/3vauHrQ
8. Bikman B. Why We Get Sick. Dallas: BenBella Books, 2020. https://amzn.to/3zocRE2
9. Noakes T. 2019. CrossFit: It’s the Insulin Resistance, Stupid: Part 9. https://www.crossfit.com/essentials/its-the-insulin-resistance-stupid-part-9
10. Crofts CAP, Zinn C, Wheldon M, Schofield G. Hyperinsulinemia: A unifying theory of chronic disease? Diabesity. 2015;1(4):34-43. doi:10.15562/diabesity.2015.19.
11. Lustig, R: Metabolical: The Truth About Processed Food and How it Poisons People and the Planet. London, Yellow Kite, 2021.
12. Oppenheimer RW. 1919. Diabetic Cookery, Recipes and Menus, Hathi Trust Digital Library. https://babel.hathitrust.org/cgi/pt?id=wu.89042014746