Top Health Problems, Top Risks


C. Norman Shealy, M.D., Ph.D.

Watching the top illnesses and risks, the shift over a few decades is indeed interesting. According to the Institute of Health Metrics and Evaluation, in the world at large, as recently as 1990 the top disabling health problems were

  •  lower respiratory infection
  • diarrhea
  • preterm birth
  • ischemic heart disease
  • stroke

In 2010 they were

  •  ischemic heart disease
  •  lower respiratory infection
  • stroke
  • HIV


In 1990, the top risk factors were

  • Low body weight
  • Household air pollution
  • Smoking
  • High blood pressure
  • Lack of breastfeeding

In 2010 they were

  •  High blood pressure
  •  Smoking
  •  Alcohol
  •  Household air pollution
  •  Low fruit consumption

Note that high body weight, or obesity—in the world at large, has not reached the top 5, even though in the U.S. it is clearly the top of the list!? BUT the rest of the world must be on the slope upwards, as low body weight is no longer in the top 12 risks, but high body mass index is now the number 6 risk worldwide. And according to Dr. Thomas McKeown, in THE ROLE OF MEDICINE, before 1900 inadequate food and protein were a major cause of premature death and infectious diseases! In only 100 years we have gone from being underfed to way overfed!? At least equally important, at least 80% of the food eaten today did not exist 100 years ago. The bastardization of food is one of the greatest crimes against humanity! Genetically modified, homogenized, hydrogenated, trans-fat, artificial sweeteners, artificial fats, pop, and in general artificial food, and pesticides and herbicides were not part of the food chain.

To me, the choice is obvious—avoid all the innovations in food manufacturing!