Dr. David Angus has written a book entitled The End of Illness and is busy promoting it. First, a disclaimer, I haven’t read the book. I don’t think I will either. His ideas are interesting but like most health oriented books, I think the reviews tell the main points and the rest of the book just repeats them over and over. If you do read The End of Illness and this isn’t true – please let me know. I have however, read the McLean’s review of the book and listened to Dr. Angus on The Current. So this article is a review of those, not the book.
I really like the way Dr. Angus describes our body as a system and that health and disease (specifically cancer, he is an Oncologist) are dynamic states. He goes on to talk about how cancer is in all of us and it takes the right environment to make it replicate and become a problem. This is totally in line with my belief that health is a spectrum and that the absence of disease doesn’t necessarily mean you are healthy or not in a state of health that will more likely promote disease in the future.
I also agree with Dr. Angus’s emphasis on individuals being responsible for their own health. I think personal responsibility for our health is lost in a world of advanced testing, breakthrough medical procedures and super drugs becoming available. While I am all for medical advances, I sometimes feel it makes people take their health for granted – that all medical conditions can be ‘fixed’ by a drug or medical procedure, with little or no effort on the patient’s part. He encourages people to know their numbers and what they mean, to ask more questions and to pay attention to their bodies. For example, how has your blood pressure and cholesterol ratio changed over the past 10 years? Or, how has your waist circumference changed?
The End of Illness also discusses the importance of the basics: proper nutrition, good sleep and staying active. Who can argue with those?
There are, however some inconsistencies in his message. He is all for “off label” uses of drugs but requires ‘double-blind, placebo-controlled’ studies on minerals and vitamins. This is double standard I encounter frequently.
He briefly talks about how everyone is an individual but thinks most people over 50 should be on statin drugs and aspirin. He is ignoring the potentially serious side effects of these drugs which, for a lot of people, would far outweigh the benefits. There are other ways to combat inflammation which have far less potential to cause side effects and address it in a way that doesn’t hijack your bodies inflammatory response. Fish oil for example.
Dr. Angus supports the hypothesizes of Paul Patterson that inflammation caused by the influenza of 1918 was the cause of health concerns later in life for people in utero at the time. While I agree that a pregnant woman’s health strongly affects a baby’s health throughout his or her lifetime, it is more than a bit of a stretch to use this data to promote the flu vaccine. There is no data or studies to support his hypothesis that flu vaccines prevent cardiovascular disease or cancer. Instead, this is his train of thought: people with inflammatory conditions like rheumatoid arthritis or colitis get cancer more often—–>the flu causes inflammation——>the flu shot is ‘suppose’ to prevent the flu——>the flu shot prevents cancer. Even if the flu vaccine was shown to decrease the incidence of flu in our population (which it isn’t) this would be faulty reasoning and have potentially many compounding factors. Kind of like when we thought coffee caused lung cancer back in the smokin’ 60′s . He is in favor of using epidemiological data(populations studies) to support the flu shot but totally dismisses all the epidemiological data (and double-blind, placebo-controlled studies) supporting Vitamin D. You can hand pick data to say anything you want and I feel like this is happening a lot with Dr. Angus.
I respect Dr. Angus for challenging our beliefs, even if I don’t agree with everything he has to say. Like I said at the beginning of this article, if you read the book and there is a lot more information and interesting ideas, let me know.