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Can Social Networks Cure Disease? Part I

Can Social Networks Cure Disease? Part I

Last week I gave a talk at TEDMED on how social networks may be an unexpected solution to our heath care crisis.

Here’s how my talk went…..

I want to tell you a story of how a skinny Haitian chicken and a bowl of beet and cabbage soup turned my world upside down and helped me think differently about how we might deal with the crazy explosion of lifestyle driven chronic diseases like heart disease, diabetes and obesity – what I like to call DIABESITY!!!

How can we even think about solving this problem that will cost the global economy $47 trillion over the next 20 years and by the end of this decade will kill 50 million people a year, killing more than twice as many people as infectious disease.

How do we think about a world—where now there are more people who are overweight than are starving?

How do we think about a world where there soon will be half a billion diabetics and almost a billion pre-diabetics and only a fraction of doctors and health care workers needed to take care of them? These are not just diseases of affluence, but are exploding in the poorest countries on earth.

So what does a skinny Haitian chicken have to do with rethinking how we approach chronic lifestyle driven diseases? My RE-thinking started on Jan 1, 2010 –the first day of the first month of the first year of this new decade. I had just finished a book about Paul Farmer, who successfully tackled the worst diseases in the worst places on the planet.

Paul Farmer successfully treated TB and AIDS — which everyone thought were untreatable in the face of extreme poverty in places like Haiti, Lima or Rwanda.

Paul realized we didn’t need a new advance in science, or a new medication but something very simple —- to rebuild community and connection in broken communities.

Paul’s genius was his insight that the key to solving insoluble health care problems was each other, was people helping people, or what some call peer support.  Paul’s genius was the idea of accompaniment — accompanying each other to health, helping each other build back their communities with clean water, food, going to each others houses making sure their sick neighbor knew how and knew when to take their medication.

And it wasn’t just a better delivery model for the right drug or the right information.  The community was part of the medicine, part of the cure.

That was how I spent that first day in January of the new decade — an auspicious day. Thinking about how Paul’s insight about infectious disease might help us solve our epidemic of chronic diseases like diabetes and heart disease.

And as this idea was shaking up my world, disaster happened. On January 12, 2010 just a few days later that massive earthquake hit Haiti.

Two days after that, I arrived at sunset with Paul Farmer who I just called out of the blue because I knew he would know where to go and asked him to come with us on a small plane with our small medical team.  We arrived into chaos, devastation and overwhelming suffering, we unloaded our plane and went directly to the main public health hospital in Port au Prince.

After a week of 20 hour days amidst amputated limbs and amputated lives – I finally got to sit and eat a meal of rice and some skinny Haitian chicken with the director of the hospital – Dr. Alix Lassegue.  As we had our first meal in days and tried to find some meat on that skinny chicken I asked Dr. Lassegue what was the most common admitting diagnosis here before the earthquake – here in the main public hospital in Haiti that served 8 million people!

I thought he would say – TB, AIDS, or malaria. But here in the poorest country in the Western hemisphere in one of the poorest countries in the world, it wasn’t TB or AIDS but diabetes, heart disease, high blood pressure — 90% of which are preventable and often reversible through lifestyle.

Those chronic diseases have reached every corner of the globe and touch everyone on the planet – it is you or someone you know or love. Most of these conditions – heart disease, high blood pressure, many cancers, and stroke, even dementia – are caused by the same ROOT problem.

DIABESITY — the continuum from a little bit of belly fat to pre-diabetes to full-blown type 2 diabetes.

I am thinking to myself while sitting in the crumbling hospital building in Haiti where diabetes was the main admitting diagnosis, “How do we deal with this crazy, overwhelming problem of obesity driven disease that’s getting worse and worse, and costing more and more despite our best efforts to treat it with medication and surgery?”

How do we deal with the fact that diabesity will soon affect 1 in 2 Americans – that’s EVERY OTHER PERSON IN AMERICA. And that full blown type 2 diabetes affects nearly 1 in 10 Americans and 1 in 5 African Americans and 1 in 4 Medicare patients.  And that 1 in 3 Medicare dollars is spent on diabetes.  And that 1 in 3 children born today will have type 2 diabetes in their lifetime.

And that 80% of the world’s diabetics are in poor countries and that half all diabetes and almost all of pre-diabetics are not even diagnosed.

So it was in the aftermath of being up to my elbows in blood, pus and broken bones, broken lives and broken hearts that I first understood what I had completely neglected over the last 15 years of diving deep into systems biology and genomics.

I was so hyper-focused on biological networks and systems medicine or NETWORK medicine as the answer to solving the puzzle of chronic disease — on turning the dials on biology for individuals –that I missed something much more important.

That most chronic disease is very often a SOCIAL disease and not just a problem of biology!!!!

We know that you are more likely to be overweight if your friend’s friend is overweight than if your parents are overweight. That the genetic threads that connect us may be less important than the social threads – that our social connections and our ancient need to be part of a tribe may be a way out of our epidemic of chronic disease…

That just maybe SOCIOGENOMICS – or how social networks influence health and disease and how social networks alter gene expression, are where we need to look for the solution.

In some places, gastric bypasses are being touted as a cure for diabetes.  As if you could cut out a poor lifestyle like a wart. Is this really a solution for our 400 million diabetics at a cost of $30,000 per person – or $12 trillion?

We can’t medicate our way out of a bad diet. Taking a statin while downing a double cheeseburger, fries and a soda just doesn’t make any sense.

But there has been a new drug discovered – that can beneficially modulate thousands of genes and enhance the function of dozen of hormones and regulate tens of thousands of protein networks and can prevent cure and even reverse most chronic disease. And it works faster, better and is cheaper than any other drug discovered and it is available to almost everyone on the planet right now…

It is food – we now know that food is information, not just calories, and that it can upgrade your biologic software.  The majority of chronic disease is primarily a food borne illness.  We ate ourselves into this problem and we have to eat ourselves out of it.

High cholesterol is not a statin deficiency, and diabetes is not an Avandia deficiency. It is not doing the same things better. What we are doing is not really working.  It is just rearranging deck chairs on the Titanic.

Statins increase the risk of diabetes by 48% in women. Avandia, the #1 blockbuster drug for diabetes, killed nearly 200,000 from heart attacks since it was introduced on the market in 1999.

So statins designed to prevent heart attacks causes diabetes and the drugs designed to treat diabetes cause heart attacks.

This is Pharmageddon.

Even if those approaches worked, we just don’t have enough doctors and hospitals and health care workers to deal with the massive number of chronically sick people on the planet.

After Haiti I realized that the answer had to be somewhere else.  If social networks can promote unhealthy lifestyles, maybe we can use social networks to create health.

We know how to prevent, treat and even reverse diabetes and heart disease so why don’t we do it, why have we failed so miserably at this.

We can eradicate type 2 diabetes just like Larry Brilliant helped eradicate smallpox.

But people give up when they try to think about the obesity and chronic disease that’s’ killing most people on the planet.

It’s TOO overwhelming. It is TOO big. But I don’t think it is – I think it is a small problem, it’s a local problem, a community problem.

After I came back from Haiti I lay awake thinking about how are we REALLY going to deal with this I thought maybe we need to decentralize and democratize health care.

I realized that if you were sick, the best place to create health might NOT be the doctor’s office or clinic but your own community with a little help from your friends.

I realized that getting healthy is a team sport!  Click here for Part II of the story.

Let’s all do this together!!

To help facilitate your journey to health, click here to join my online community .

Now I’d like to hear from you …

Do you think community is an effective cure for chronic illness?

Have you joined with friends or family to take back your health; how has that worked for you?

Please leave your thoughts by adding a comment below.

To your good health,

Mark Hyman, MD




Mark Hyman MD is the Medical Director at Cleveland Clinic’s Center for Functional Medicine, the Founder of The UltraWellness Center, and a ten-time #1 New York Times Bestselling author.

Comments (65)

  • Social Networks can most certainly purvey very important information and advice that can lead to Disease Prevention. Prevention is, of course, the ultimate ‘Cure’ for Diseases of Mankind. Through the mechanism of ‘sharing’ of information, via Social Networking and other methods, the cures may be closer to being within the grasp of every common man, woman and child on this earth. As lofty a goal as that may sound, I believe Social Networking is bringing us closer to that state. As with many things that are used for ‘good,’ Social Networking is capable of being corrupted by unscrupulous entities with profit and other self-serving motives in mind. These, for the most part, anonymous, ‘posters’ are capable of polluting the credible information by making a mockery of the advice and ideas put forth by those with no axe to grind or motives, other than those which are altruistic in nature. Making Social Media the proverbial Double Edged Sword to be used for both good and evil – depending on the stakes involved. In the case of many corporations, the stakes are enormous. Thank you, Dr. Hyman, for all you do to save lives by your words and deeds. — Respectfully, Mary Nash Stoddard/author Deadly Deception Story of Aspartame (Odenwald Press 1998)

  • I think community support is a great solution! We had a biggest loser type program at work and doing it together definitely helps. It gives you the opportunity to share ideas, pitfalls and challenges along with support to make it through when things get challenging. I would love to bring a program like that to my church. Do you have any resources available to help get a program like that going?

  • I’ve come to the same conclusion recently, through a totally different path. I’m in a health grad school program writing a paper/group presentation relying upon this very idea. Looking forward to hearing more.

  • Fantastic — leveraging the tremendous power of social networks to drive health initiatives. Wondering if social media could also be harnessed?

  • I think others have found the cure for high blood pressure, diabetes, etc.

    IT’S SIMPLY AVOIDING EATING CHALK! If you ate that chalk they use on a blackboard everyday anyone would tell you not only are sick but you are GOING to get sick.

    What is this chalk I’m talking about??? WHITE FLOUR or grain including whole grains ground into fine chalk!!!!

    This chalk and white sugar (the other culprit) must be the FIRST STEP to take in avoidance of PROCESSED FOOD which can come later as you get more into it and begin to make better choices.

  • Thank you Dr. Hyman for this amazing article!! I love it and I believe you are right on!! I am a student at the Institute for Integrative Nutrition which is where I discovered you! I have been running healthy eating cleanses at my local organic farm for many years. I take people through a 2-week exercise in clean eating. I talk about eating locally grown foods, grass fed meats, etc. I always do this in groups. There is something magical about the fellowship created in a group experience. The leave the experience changed and they are charged up to spread the word. I have never advertised and I continue to get large groups of people to participate. It is only me in my local community, but I do feel if we all can do something in our communities, we will gain momentum and change the world!!

  • This is a great idea not only to heal our oversized, over sick society but bringing our nation together as one helping and caring for one another, like life should be! Once we cure this problem we cure many mental problems that eating junk food causes. It’s very difficult for any of us to simply stop eating food that is so highly addictive it’s more like a drug. I personally watched a person in my area die of cancer from drinking and eating at Dunkin Donuts at least 1-2 times a day, 7 days a week. What is in that so called food that is so very addictive? I believe it’s time for these junk foods to post a warning label similar to cigarettes. Breaking the junk food addiction for some is like breaking many other addictions like smoking, drugs and alcohol. We all need to be there for support when this withdrawal happens in order to help one another find new real foods to replace those other so called foods causing such horrible disease and damage. Thank you Dr. Hyman for waking up our world!!! We’re ready for this change!

  • Read Dr. Hyman’s books, The Blood Sugar Solution and The Ultra Mind Solution. Another great place to find great information to help our family, friends and neighbors. Healing the world one person at a time!

  • I am in the middle of reading “Relational Reality: New Discoveries of Interrelatedness That Are Transforming the Modern World” by Charlene Spretnak. While her approach is broader (the four focus areas of the book are: 1) Education and Parenting, 2) Health and Healthcare, 3) Community Design and Architecture, and 4) The Economy), everything in this article is consistent with what she is saying in this excellent book.

    From the book cover: “All our basic assumptions (built on the old idea that everything in the physical world is essentially separate and functions mechanistically) are being reconsidered. No longer a marginal perspective, the Relational Shift is based on the realization that all entities in this world, including humans, are thoroughly relational beings of great complexity who are both composed of and nested within networks of creative, dynamic interrelationships.”

    • Dr. Hyman,

      Everything you say is correct and necessary, but are the communities willing to do what is needed, not only to help each other, but themselves? Chef Jamie Oliver tried TWICE in the United States to alter community behaviour and dietary patterns, and met with absolutely abusive resistance, especially in Los Angeles. Individuals and bureaucracies in the communities that Jamie Oliver attempted help were hostile and accused of Jamie of sticking his nose into business which what not his. They acted as if he was judging their lifestyles, rather than embracing the fact that he was trying to demonstrate that people could eat whole, fresh foods and get away from their packaged and fast food addictions.

      He wasn’t even trying to convince them to eradicate sugar, gluten, or dairy from their diets, which you have often advocated – had he tried that I’m positive they would have burned him at the stake. Television showmanship aside, Mr. Oliver’s attempts were sincere, but that sincerity was misinterpreted as self-righteousness, and even if he hadn’t shown up with television crews, the reaction would likely have been the same.

      As a whole foods eating, semi vegetarian, my dietary lifestyle is met with derision and hostility from others, INCLUDING doctors, and I can assure you that I don’t “preach” anything about my lifestyle – just the mere MENTION that I eat tons of vegetables and whole grains is enough to subject myself to ridicule and sometimes, inexplicable anger. The fact is that people who are addicted to any substance, be it psychoactive drugs, highly refined grains or sugary soda pop react with denial and hostility when presented with an alternative to their addictive behaviour.

      Unfortunately, while I whole heartedly agree with your comments about community members bringing about a sea change, I’m also not very optimistic that anything substantial will occur in the long run. There is just too much individual ignorance and denial, and WAY too much institutional and private sector financial self interest for real, lasting change to happen on a large scale. Maybe one day things will be different, but I doubt it. Look at the fact that our climate and environment is being irreparably damaged at an alarming rate, but no one who can truly do something about it is willing to make the tough choices and sacrifices needed to change. There is too much denial, complacency, and/or financial self interest to affect meaningful change. We’re all on a sinking ship, health-wise, food-wise, and environment-wise, and our sincere and well intended efforts to bail out the water is doomed to fail.

      • I wholeheartedly agree with most of what you said except “our sincere and well intended efforts to bail out the water is doomed to fail.” Perserverance is the key and it doesn’t matter if we fail.

      • Bonnie,
        yours is an honest, accurate and much needed addition to this rich dialogue. thank you!
        truly there are some bigger, insidious and destructive forces that need continued naming.
        might i respectfully suggest taking a look at ‘The Unlikely Peace at Cuchumaquic’ by Martin Prechtel.
        though deeply terrifying, this unparalleled storytelling of the generational, cross-cultural violence to indigenous soul, does round the bend and begin to touch upon the potential of a solid foundation of hope . . .

    • Jim,
      thank you so much for your response and for offering what looks to be an excellent accompaniment to the work and teaching of Dr. Hyman. it sounds like ‘Relational Reality’, aligns well with some of the most hopeful neurological discoveries, in particular, interpersonal neurobiology.

  • Dear Dr. Hyman, if it wasn’t for social media and the sense of community it fosters, I would not have found you and your amazing work! I would not have found my calling as a health coach and the hope that is shared and is growing among us. Thank you for your service to humanity and for deconstructing the lies that keep us and our planet sick. In peace always.

  • Sidewalks need to make a return. City planners need to consider walkability, corner grocery stores, community centers. Give folks the opportunity to get out of their cars–and into walking or biking shoes!

  • People get together to “Run for the Cure” and fundraise out of concern for eachother, but are unwittingly just sending their valuable money to the Cancer cartel that refuses to talk about the CAUSES of the disease: TOXIC chemicals, food additives, pesticides, and heavy metals like mercury allowed to be placed in our teeth and injected into young and old via government pushed vaccines. We obediently recycle, purchase toxic mercury-filled light bulbs, and line up for our flu shots and yet remain in the DARK about the hidden toxins that we are exposed to at every turn. If people (and doctors) only KNEW the truth that is being kept form them for the sake of the profits and protection of the chemical, pharmaceutical, and commercial food industries they would UNITE against them and boycott them. I believe that it is going to take an all out effort of educating our neighbors and our communities if they are ever going to be able to PROTECT THEMSELVES and regain their health. Doctors, nurses, and nutritionists need to WISE UP and and RISE UP like you have and start standing for the truth instead of parroting the disinformation of the mainstream medical paradigm. But at present, either arrogance, ignorance, fear of income reduction, or attack by FDA and AMA and ADA keep most healthcare providers and dentists from admitting the truth. Disease CAN be prevented or cured, not just “managed”. The establishment doesn’t want the truth to get out about the causes……so we all remain sickly and die early deaths. Thank you for telling the truth……when will the rest of the doctors do the same?

  • I absolutely love the idea of social networking helping to help cure diabesity and raise awareness. I recently participated in an event where bloggers helped raise awareness about conserving the earth’s resources for Earth Day, so why not create community around disease prevention? I would gladly participate to help raise awareness of how to prevent/cure diabesity and can help gather a community of health minded food bloggers to help as well. If you are interested, please let me know and we can organize something online. When things go viral on all the different social media platforms, the word will spread.

  • I absolutely believe that Social Media will solve the health care crisis, and I think the solutions are staring us right in the eyes. We definitely have to look at things differently, but I think we already know how to do that. It will take a community of people realizing that the answers are there, and to start supporting each other in our collective return to health. I find it synchronistic that I posted my own article “Eradicating Disease: A Whisper to a Scream” yesterday on social media, and encouraged people to share the story. If everybody was shouting the answers from the mountain tops, it would be amazing what we would accomplish.

    Please count me in as part of the community that is shouting from the mountain tops. Let’s eradicate disease.

    Namaste, Ken

  • Hi Mark,
    I enjoyed this article about your observations because I feel they are very accurate. Your observations remind me of a similar observation of twelve step groups. In the various groups which are fairly world wide, they call it sponsorship. This is where an experienced group member will support a new person to the group in doing what is needed to become free of their particular drug of choice. It is that basic human contact that can move mountains (of addictions) because it is one on one. It is supportive and non-judgemental. It is always looking for ways to be positive and supportive of sobriety from a person’s particlar drug of choice. This human contact draws the food addict out of isolation and begins to give a glimmer of hope for recovery. The nice part is that anyone can do it so they don’t have to be a medical or mental health professional. All that’s needed is a desire to extend a helping hand to another person and walk their path with them. Great things happen when these interpersonal dynamics are at play. Mark, thank you for all the work you are doing to help us who live with food addiction at least 3X daily.

  • I truly hope and pray something will work. I feel people know that it is not healthy to eat junk food and that they are slowly killing themselves they just do not want to face it or deal with it. There is some underlying belief that they deserve to be fat and have addictions to food. Maybe we can get people to change their beliefs – get them to know deep down inside that they are all God’s beautiful creatures all one with God/Universe/eternal love whatever u want to call it and absolutely deserve to be healthy happy and loved!! I hope we can reach out and love them unconditionally and they hear us and learn to take care of themselves because they are part of us! Bless u for helping!! There are so many people that still think drugs are the answer because their doctor said so!!

  • Just yesterday I made the decision to begin a discussion group for those interested in going gluten free. I have been researching this topic and have been gluten/dairy/soy free for 2 years. I have now been grain free for about 6 months and see the health benefits. I relieved on others for information, advice, and support. Now I want to give back what others gave me. I so agree that this is an essential component of healing ourselves. We need each other.

  • I don’t know about the rest of the world but here in this country we are insidiously busy always on the go and have subsequently become addicted to the easy fix meal and the fast food bring the meal home industry.
    I remember when we didn’t have McDonalds and Moms(or Dads) had time to cook a healthy meal. We are now sleep deprived, overworked, over “activitied” and over fed. All our own doing and mostly in the name of stuff. But it is what it is so to make this movement successful it would have to work within the parameters of the crazy American lifestyle.
    Infiltrating the fast food world and creating quick healthy meals at an AFFORDABLE price is a quick way to start the shift.There was a company about 15-20 years ago that tried this and it failed but I really think we may be ready to accept this concept now. This along with education, changing school menus, media conversation and community involvment the change can begin and the total lifestyle change concepts mentioned in other comments can get a solid foothold and pull us out of our addiction and set us up to move forward with a healhier less disease riddled society.

  • I don’t really understand this problem. Do people in these very poor countries eat fast food and processed food from the grocery store? Surely if they’re so poor, their diet hasn’t changed so much. Are they overweight?

    Fifty years ago in the USA, we rarely ate at a fast food place. That was a special treat only a few times a year. We ate at home. We almost never had soft drinks, although we were allowed Fizzies or Koolaid or Tang for a treat. We played outside for hours most days.

    Then, as so many mothers had to go to work, they had no time or energy to buy, prepare and cook food. Children are indoors in front of the TV or computer. When I was in high school, there were very few overweight children. We looked upon them as a little different. Now it’s very common for children to be overweight. Isn’t that progress??!!

    I don’t know the solution. I know exactly how I should eat, but have trouble making myself leave off all the wonderful goodies which are so harmful.

  • Dr Hyman, I applaud your efforts, your forward thinking and even more your sacrifice doing work in Haiti, probably the most cursed place on the planet, half of it due to nature but the other half due to the population themselves.
    While I feel alot closer to Bonnie’s rational albeit dark assessment of things, I cant let myself give up on the planet yet if for no reason other than I need to do what little I can do leave it a better place for my children than the one I born into. But it aint workin’ out really well right now as you well know.
    Alot of the blame for current conditions must be placed on the current generation in charge. Yes, I’ve met the enemy and it is us, especially this group of die hard capitalists who’s rape-and-pillage-is-OK-as-long-as-it-makes-me-a-buck-mentality is allowed to not only be accepted but in fact aspired to.
    Yes, that population is almost exclusively the province of the repuglican party and Romney, the Wall St 2012-rape-and-pillage-poster-child, is its latest monstrosity. We need people such as yourself to call these planet rapists out for what they are, enemies of all our mothers but of our mother’s mothers and her name is Mother Nature.
    My well-founded fear is that the original “ME” generation with all its cooking porn shows and adulation of these clown “celebrity chefs” -as if cooking more fatty, sugary, salty food were a reason to not only waste $15K renovating your kitchen for (you spend so much time there, why not?) but to actually get out of bed in the morning;. And bastions of liberalism such as NPR are as food-guilty as anyone when it comes to food porn,
    But enuf gloom n doom. I propose the following; if your method works so well (and I agree it does, I’ve incorporated about as much of it as I can into my life) then lets put on a “reality show” where you pit your lifestyle changes vs any and all comers using traditional medicine/drugs/surgery/whatever. Do a baseline blood analysis on all the presently diabetic contestants and *demonstrate the effectiveness* of your approach for everyone to see.
    I can bet you can reverse most if not all of these diabetic conditions with lifestyle changes only -no drugs-. then lets see the equivocating/rationalizing/ apologizing of the medical establishment, their food porn producers, the junk food mfr’s and the average lazy, fat American who dosent have sufficient mental discipline to make these changes.
    The challenges to this are many, agreed. You’ll need to be able to fix their blood chemistry in 16 weeks and followup periodically in places that get more eyes than HuffPo to counteract the effect of the poor attention span of typical TV couch potoato as well as have a few highly visible famous people who keep hammering your message home almost daily. I’m sure there are a few beautiful ( and healthy) celebs who’d be happy to help if for no other reason than it keeps their name in the news. Good luck.

  • It is an interesting thought and has been experimented with on some level with weight watchers, on line weight loss and health communities (like this). The buddy system has been around for a while. I do think it is interesting about friends’ weight affecting us more than our genes. My husband and I ballroom dance and so there is always this “pressure” to look good in your dance clothes. We hang out with slim people. We are both slim and are always re-examing our lifestyle…i am determined not to be part of the diabetic community and try to raise awareness whenever apprpriate.

  • Hi, I do agree that community is the way toward eating healthy food and letting go of processed, refined and additive ladened foods.
    I think that the famous and socially influential people can play their part. It is really up to one person at a time, taking responsibility for their own eating and exercise patterns, then one on one spreading the word. It does become part of an accepted and desired part of the culture, if people see it can be done and the authorities and cultural pace setters are on the same page.
    I have lived through many of these campaigns, most notably drunk driving. (and smoking in public) 50 years ago drunk driving was an accepted practice. As the designated driver slowly became socially acceptable in mainstream society, a drunk driving stop or arrest became shameful. This took decades and of course not everyone shared those values.
    People should soldier on with their own convictions and ignore the skepticism or derision of others on the dietary issues. They will make a difference in the long run. I know many vegetarians that have been derided for decades. Now they are accepted as following a viable alternative toward health.
    Because the major corporations in America stand to loose many billions of dollars as this shift toward eating real food picks up steam there will be much resistance. But the Jamie Olivers and Mark Bittmans are not going away!
    So, if one at a time we do our part there will be a change for the better.

  • Dr. Hyman vision is great ; compassion love and support. His Functional medicine makes so much sense, his presentations (and I read several of his books as well heard him in a lecture) are hilarious and he even got support from influential figures such as President Clinton. Despite of the above he and all who carry the holistic flags are facing a system that will always win as long as the existing paradigm will rule the day. In the US Meat price is subsidized up to 87% while Veggies and fruits less than 1%,, there are no real incentives to be healthy when it comes to health (sickness) insurances, the people that suppose to be in charge of health, MD’s graduated from Medical school that do not teach nutrition. I am a health coach, and it is by far easier to “sell” health coaching to healthy people, those who are aware of their own health and want to get better than to the people who really need to get healthier.
    One person at a time is the answer of “no choice” however it may end up as a too slow approach that may not prevent the destruction of communities and individuals. The subject has so many real profound implications that it can become a main issue of a platform of every political figure everywhere in the world.

  • I understand Bonnie’s downheartedness in the face of the circumstances she wrote about (Jamie Oliver etc). However, as Margaret added, these things take time, it does require a “critical mass” after which it becomes general knowledge, so there is hope. Also, the meaning of “community is now much wider. We still need to know our neighbours , to feel we have a significant part to play in our lives and in the lives of those around us. Loneliness and a sense of isolation are killers as much as a diet of Dunkin’ Donuts. But a community growing here, on line, with Dr Mark as the hub. I don’t know Bonnie or Margaret, but already we know we have similar ideas and aspirations. So although the community is “virtual” it can be as nourishing as having a chat over the garden fence. All change starts “with me”. It sounds trite and is often quoted, Nelson Mandela urged people to “be the change they wanted to see”. A challenge to one’s sense of ability to change, yet do-able on a step by step basis. One can walk around the world but it is done taking one step, then taking another step, then another…Keep encouraged. :0)

  • I have been an oil-free vegan for nearly a year. I eat this way because I strongly believe it will make my life longer and healthier. I have lost weight and feel much better. The problem is, it is so hard to do this in our society. It is impossible to eat in a restaurant without cheating. Even if it is possible to find vegan fare, no restaurants serve food that doesn’t have added oils and salt. It’s very difficult to eat at someone’s home without making a fuss about the food. There is virtually no prepared food in the grocery stores that meets our requirements. And it’s not cheap to eat this way. It’s amazing that the healthful choices are always more expensive than the junk! I am fortunate to be retired and I am able to spend quite a bit of time planning and preparing our meals. I can’t imagine how I could have done this when I was working. So, although I applaud the idea of supporting one another’s health through social networking, I’m afraid that real progress will not be possible without radical changes to the corporate food industry. As long as the current level of advertising for unhealthy products and the easy availability of processed and unhealthy foods continues, I find it hard to believe that any widespread or lasting change will occur.

  • 100% agree- I think the hardest thing for me and my family has been the outside pressure from extended family, friends and church groups to be “normal”. Not spend extra on organic, eat out at social functions where it’s not even really food and don’t do so much “work” to get food straight from the farm…Now that we are starting to heal all I want to do is help connect people with good info. resources and encouragement, as it has been so isolating doing it with little support (except of course from wonderful Maggie at UltraWellnes !!)

  • I read this and think: “Like what else is new!”
    Haven’t we known this for a long time. One of the gifts of America to the world is rugged individualism, the individualization of practically everything with the utter loss of community. Maybe we will relearn the value of community before we all die alone.

  • Learning this information and taking the changes one step at a time has made my health, inner happiness and my whole outlook on life go from black and white into living color! I know there are many obstacles in community with food, I know there is ridicule, but I remember that at one time I to used to think that way and I didn’t change my way of thinking over night and neither will others. I say put me up in front of a crowd so I can share what I have learned and let them throw tomatoes at me, I will just make tomato salad and shine forth this wonderful truth that so many others need. If just one person is helped then all the effort is worth it.

  • Community (work, neighborhoods, spiritual) is an important part of humankind. It is in this that we relate to one another and to help and serve one another. It is what keeps us from being alone. I am enrolled in IIN to help effect a change in this disease that is destroying us. It has got to stop. We have the tools, now we need to support each other in moving forward into the healing.

  • I was very excited to read this article of Dr. Hymans…I’m a hospital nurse of 27 years and wondered when that day would come when all the patients would be the diabesity sort…350+ pounds and unable to move about in the hospital bed looking like beached whales stuck between the bedrails and 3 weeks ago, as I was walking thru the halls of our med-surg unit glancing in each room as I passed by, it hit me like a Mack truck. That day had arrived1 It wasn’t every bed but every other had a maximorbidly obese patient in it. My jaw dropped! It has been my practice for the past 8+ years to teach my patients about the importance of their diet when on antibiotics…leave out the 5 white evils(white flour, white sugar, etc) to keep from paralyzing their immune system. All my patients had never heard that before until the past year. Now I’m seeing more awareness…that “critical mass” that Wendy mentions is approaching. What excites me is Dr.Hymans idea of community. My husband and I feel a calling to teach healthy food choices at our church. I do it w/all my patients. I tell them to be their own food advocate. “Just because the hospital serves you milk or white bread on your tray doesn’t mean you have to eat it.” I’ve been “coaching” a young lady, at our church, who suffers from chronic bladder infections. Amongst many of her poor food choices, she was also drinking milky, creamy italian sodas everytime I saw her. She’s stopped that now and everytime she sees me, she tells me what she’s eaten that day or the past week. When people start feeling better from eating better, they’ll share their success and help others do the same. I realize that’s just a tiny part of the “community sense” but it is a start and I, too, would like to see that take over what medicines and hospitals have failed to do and really, can never do. Kudos, Dr. Hyman!!!

  • I agree there is hope for an improvement in the modern diet and also that change will take lots of time. Yes, processed foods seem to be addictive, and perhaps are specifically formulated that way, but more and more restaurants are offering locally grown foods and pasture-raised beef and gluten-free options. More and more people are buying from farmers markets. It takes time and effort but I think we’re making some progress. Yes, there will be push-back from industries whose profits come from selling unhealthy and addictive foods, just as tobacco companies have worked hard to maintain their profitability. Dr. Hyman’s e-mails and articles continue to give me hope that sanity will prevail, not necessarily for everyone but at least for many. Thank you Dr. Hyman for your encouragement and wisdom to help us all live healthy lives!

  • Part of our feeling of hopelessness and it can’t be done is because we are old farts and think like old farts. After 25 most people think like old farts. The good old days really never existed. I am 77 and have diabesity. Have any of you heard of the Arab Spring? It was all done with a very new social media called Face Book.. You can send anything around the world in minutes. These good old boys can’t keep their strangle hold on the world any more. Look at China and how they have fought to keep Facebook controlled by the government. Even our own government ignores their voters. One day the Arab Spring will pitch they out of power with out their life time pension! Only it will be called the Yankee Spring. In fact it has already started.They used to be able to just sweep everything under the rug. No more and no one trusts the news media because it is all owned by the same advertisers. If you can get this all on Facebook in a fun an slightly sexy way. It has to be something that the younger generation will pick up and pass on. It’s a very serious problem but find some Kids to make cartoons that they find hilarious. Monsanto and the big corporations have no one to sue or bully. A teed off young girl made Bank of America back off in about a week. So quit giving us all the stuff that they can and will do and get busy, but with young positive people that still know they can and will change the world. When you help get people healthy they will quit spending their money on pills and make more changes because it is fun and makes you feel even better. That is contagious. The truth always shines through garbage.. .So get a shovel and let’s dig down through the pile!. .

  • Why are there so many chronic lifestyle diseases in a place like Haiti that is so poor that you don’t see a lot of obesity there? The stress of grinding poverty is a big part of the answer. Stress adds to diabetes. I know. I have the full blown diabesity.

    When I was first diagnosed, a nurse came to me with a pill and said “You have to take this for the rest of your life” It wasn’t insulin. It was one of those drugs that made your pancreas produce more insulin and it push me into hypoglycemia. I got rid of it on my own after 5 weeks. I knew the track they had me on: That drug, then another until my pancreas was exhausted, then insulin injections that finally, lopping off limbs.

    And all along the way being a profit center to Big Pharma. They have no financial incentive to cure. They have every financial incentive to keep people believing that these chronic conditions can only be managed. And can only be managed with their drugs.

    Yes, community is helpful, but the biggest single cure is demonetization. Why must we pay to live on the planet we’re born on? The highest rates of obesity in the US are in the poorest states because people will try to buy the most calories they can for their limited dollars and the best calories/dollar ratio comes with junk food. Get money out of our healthcare and our food systems, have only true healers be in the profession, remove the stress of poverty from people’s lives and watch the diabesity rates drop like a stone worldwide..

    Continue believing that the world must run on a money based system — socialism is not all that much better than capitalism; you still have to have money to buy things including the social programs, etc in the end the problem is the same. And we will continue suffering these diseases.

  • I like the idea of a community coming along side to help and to encourage one in the walk though healthier life. I was diagnosed with type 2 about a year ago, and have worked hard on changing my life style and eating habits along with taking supplements. I am in a spiritual community that has been very encouraging and growing together into more health conscious families. When we start meeting weekly in homes several years ago , people would bring the SAD diet to the pot lucks. Now it is healthy meals and dessert with fruits and baking with stevia or palm sugar etc and we are motivating each other to make better choices and discussing what we are learning in our individual growth towards heath. This community encouragement has been so valuable to me. And my average fasting blood sugar is now down from over 8 to under 6 Another friend in our group was just diagnosed with breast cancer and felt so good coming to our group because we were already doing what her alternative heath care provider told her the she needed to start incorporating into her life. In other words she had a community ready and waiting to support her.
    I don’t know how to duplicate what our little community has right now, but if it could be it would be a valuable tool and along the idea of Dr. Hyman’s article

  • It seems like the world needs a lot of cheap food, and the cheapest is a contributes to diabesity – grains, rice, potatoes. People don’t want more expensive food, or food that doesn’t taste so good, or maybe even unfamiliar food. Maybe a good direction is to come up with recipes that use the cheap carb foods, but add certain spices, fiber, maybe other things that will taste good, maybe really good, and be simple and cheap. Or generally educate people on cheap, nutritious food of whatever type.

  • Your doing great work. Thank you! Peer pressure is so powerful as children and onto adulthood. Eating together,dining in or out, attending social functions,are all part of social networks and all include food. With your creative approach to educating and healing the world, I can see you initiating some sort of healthy meals dinner clubs where groups of people share delicious healthy meals and have fun in a social atmosphere perhaps resistance would soften and peer pressure would lean towards a new consciousness !

  • Fantastic! And yes, sociogenomics and yes, the community you are in makes all the difference. Even something so simple as this. In college, many moons ago, my room-mate ate well and exercised when she lived with me, something that was not her norm. After we graduated, and moved away, she reverted back to her old ways, gained weight and her diet reverted. An employee of mine commented that he ate healthy when he worked for me, but when he was relocated, his diet completely changed and he put on much weight; he meshed with his new department quite well, but to the great deterioration of his health.

    Great post!

  • Yes, we can Heal Thyself! We have an active social network on Facebook to empower moms to use the wisdom of traditional foods and natural healing.

    Food Has Power – the power to harm and the power to heal.

    Information is power. Together we ARE making a difference~!


  • How about Love Dr ! Whenever there is gathering with the intentions of helping our community, there is love
    When we come together to help one another, there is love
    When we reach out to offer our help in service to others any way we can, there is love
    When we think in a loving manner, we create loving events.
    When our motto is to “think, feel and act with love beauty and wisdom” we generate more love.
    Let’s not be afraid of using this word after all, without love there cannot be a creation.

  • Wow, great post Dr. Hyman! Really thinking outside the box. I too think this “cure” for diabetes, or obesity being an expensive gastric bypass surgery that leaves a person chronically nutrient deficient is nuts. Typical of standard medicine thinking driven by the surgical/med tech, and pharmaceutical cartels. This thing just feeds itself. Now NIH has refuted the idea of food deserts in the ghetto and inner city, which I find hard to believe. Fast food is so easy, cheap, tasty and available, it becomes the staple for many people too resigned, to shop and cook. When it comes down to it though, we all make choices when it comes to eating. We have a personal responsibility to do the right thing by our bodies. Making change takes willpower, reasoning, and support. Then it becomes a habit; part of a lifestyle. Maybe you’re on to something here, community support, personal support for making the right choices. After all, if Whole Foods can refuse to buy and sell fish that are not sustainably “harvested”, to allow those populations to recover, maybe each of us can do something sustainable for ourselves.

  • I am a nurse practitioner operating a free clinic for persons with no health insurance. My patients are very open to hearing about different ways to handle their health issues. Many are trying more whole grains, and whole foods, cutting back or eliminating dairy and reducing meat consumption. They are increasing their water intake and exercise. They haven’t known what else to do and they do not want to be at the mercy of our health system that is not working for them. They are grateful to have someone to teach them a better way.

    As for community, I am a Seventh-day Adventist Christian. As a church organization, we promote a healthy lifestyle which provides a community of support for persons who are interested in good health.

  • Certainly you are on target. Look at what you all have done at the CA mega church! WOW!

    AND here is another way to approach the scaling of your solutions … find a friendly insurance company and get them to run a pilot program in which they pay their Dr.s a fair fee for treating diabesity patients annually … provided they take a course on your methods, tests, nutrition etc. They could calculate a fair fee that would benefit the Dr. and the Company because of the increased health of the patients. Sort of a fee-in -tariff, the German subsidy that scaled the solar market and will phase out eventually, but it should be a physician “bonus” for a lifestyle change approach.

  • Great article. I feel that the blood sugar solution is being read and people are learning a lot.

  • Just a note from someone who was in the TEDMED audience: yes, you will want to watch the video when it’s posted. Hopefully it will capture the spirit of Mark’s talk and the reaction in the hall, esp. to the “PHARMAGEDDON” slide.

    I was interested to see how Mark harnessed an existing network of people — the small groups within a very large church — and didn’t try to create a network from scratch. That makes a lot of sense: go to where the people already are, don’t ask for too much change at once, and get the leaders to sign on first. A lot of people interested in behavior change could learn from this example, both online and off.

  • Great post. Through social media, we are able to connect to a global population that has diverse culture. Doctors can be able to communicate and provide information to the poor who cannot access a decent medical care. With this, doctors will also be gaining popularity.

    Erick Kinuthia
    Team MDwebpro

  • I would love to have someone to go to doctor’s appointments with me and support my healing. I’m 67 and live alone and everyone I know is so busy including family members. I would gladly make time to be with someone who needed a friend and wanted me to be there with them.

  • According the “The China Study” by J.C. Campbell, animal protein, casein, promotes disease. We shouldn’t eat meat nor dairy. What do you think about his findings.

  • Excellent advice in compliance with Christian principles “And sold their possessions and goods, and parted them to all men, as every man had need. And they, continuing daily with one accord in the temple, and breaking bread from house to house, did eat their meat with gladness and singleness of heart, Praising God, and having favour with all the people. And the Lord added to the church daily such as should be saved.” Acts 2:45-47

  • “obesity driven disease…”
    “80% of the world’s diabetics are in poor countries”

    And, no doubt, those in poor countries are obese… I wish doctors stopped calling diabetes “obesity-driven”. There are type 2 diabetics who have never been obese, haven’t been eating junk food, and have been exercising regularly, before they got this diagnosis out of the blue. And then, they have to hear this classic comment from friends: “but you’re not obese!”

    What about those many obese people who never get diabetes?

    I don’t deny that obesity is a major contributing factor in diabetes, but many thin people get it, too!

  • I am an odd diabetic…..I had surgery 10 years ago for a spot on my pancreas. The tail of my pancreas was removed as I was told the organ has the consistency of jello and a biopsy was not an option. Anyway, no one told me that I would be thrown into high blood sugars. I am on insulin shots – 1 at night and take the max of metformin morning, noon, and night……I cannot get my blood sugar under 200. Have ALOT of stress in my life……am responsible for an 84 year old mother that has alzheimers (in a nursing home), an 89 year old father that can still live on his own but is totally dependent on me for most things. It is unrealistic for me to think I can get the blood sugar under control by diet only due to only having part of that most important organ left??? If I had it to do over again I would have NOT done the surgery and taken my chances fighting cancer but it is done and I just have to fine God perfect plan for me……is the blood sugar solution diet worth a try?????? I am 60 years old and I would like to live to see my grandchildren grow up. Is there some tests I could have done????? to see how what is left of my pancreas is working okay????? I have purchased the book and love the info but only one book has ever mentioned surgical diabetics and nothing else was said just that they exist??? Is there help for us few????

    • Hello Kathy,

      You are certainly dealing with a lot and we wish you well. You must be under the supervision of a physician while on this diet considering your medical condition. Never give up hope and consider joining our community for support.


      Dr. Hyman Staff

  • Social Networks?

    There is undoubtedly an influence from the environment. Live around healthy people and you will tend to pick up their healthy habits.

    But the opposite is also true and the poorest of us often live around people with very unhealthy habits.

    For all of us the solution is to take responsibility. 1- Learn the lifestyle difference. 2- resolve to change.

    Nobody can do it for us and while it would be nice to have the support of a group, the ultimate responsibility is with our self.

    Friends, associates, even relatives tend to come and go. The only constant is our self. Make that strong and your life can improve. Depend on others and your fate is in the wind.

    My personal story is about a pact with my wife. We agreed to embrace a healthy lifestyle and worked together on it for almost a year. Then she was diagnosed with terminal cancer. Our agreement was forgotten as we tried to enjoy our last two months together; smoking, drinking, eating the most fun things we could find.

    When she was gone I had no reason to care about my health. I sought comfort in every cigaret, drink and dessert I could find.

    Now, many years later and diagnosed with diabetes and hypertension, I have found the strength to correct my diet, quit the cigarets, and develop an exercise program that puts me on the path to better health.

    Social considerations (the loss of my wife) caused me to neglect my health. Finding an inner strength helped me on the path to good health.

    I suggest that you do NOT become dependent on others for your path to better health habits. Seek that core survival instinct within yourself that can move you forward.

    There is much to live for if you are not wrapped up in petty concerns. The world is changing, lifestyles are evolving, technology is making a difference and you can live to witness a wonderful new world. To the extent that you can embrace 6 billion people and all their diversity, you can leave your selfish interests behind. You can participate in these changes and influence their direction in your local government and the world scene. How can this not excite you and make you want to live forever?!?

    This kind of thinking is the only way I know to achieve dependable improvement in your life. If you know a better way, please share with us all. Other people come and go, you are here for the rest of your life. Life may bring you difficulties, but your response is totally under your control. Forge ahead. Trust yourself to carry on in the healthiest way you know how. Other individuals may help or hinder your perspective, but your own values supersede their opinions. Enjoy with me the wonders of the world around us and let good health be a happy part of the result!

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